EarSonics ES2 in-ear earphones - Dual Balanced Armature

Average User Rating:
5/5,
  1. Brooko
    5.0/5,
    "Earsonics ES2 – Beautifully balanced smooth dual BA"
    Pros - Build, fit (with right tips), comfort, overall SQ, resolution, removable cable, frequency balance
    Cons - Smooth nozzles (no lip), nozzle length means shallow insertion (could be longer)
    ES230.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

    INTRODUCTION

    I think most people will have heard about Earsonics at some stage.  My first experience of their gear was years ago – when someone loaned me their SM3 for a couple of weeks.  This was in my very early years, and before I'd really started reviewing.  At the time I think I had my SE535 LE or SE425 as my main in-ears, and already I'd discovered that I liked a more balanced, but slightly brighter signature.  And the SM3 to me were very smooth and slightly dark.  They were pretty good – but not my “cup of tea”.  I read a lot of popular reviews on them – and soon decided that perhaps Earsonics just simply wasn't my type of house sound.  Jumping to early conclusions can be pretty stupid – and I'm pleased to say that my latest experience with Earsonics products couldn't be more different than my earlier one.
     
    And a quick plug here for both Nic (you know him as flinkenick) and also Max Capgras from Earsonics for making this all possible.  Nic sent Earsonics my details, and I was extremely surprised when Max contacted me and asked if I'd like to review their ES2 and ES3 IEMs.  I'm so glad he did too – because I really LOVE both IEMs.  Read on to discover why my early impressions of Earsonics from all those years ago have been literally turned on their head.
     
    ABOUT EARSONICS
    Earsonics was formed in 2004, and are located in France.  From their own website, they describe themselves as:
    French designer and manufacturer of a range of in-ear-monitors tailored and universal for musicians, sound engineers and audiophiles demanding.
     
    And they further expand by saying:
    Provide quality, high fidelity audio listening. Respecting the spectral balance and musicality.
    Musical sound around listening ..
     
    I know that their earliest commercial model seems to be the original SM line, and includes the SM2, SM3, SM64.  From there they have branched out into both custom monitors and also universals including EM32 / EM6 / EM4 / EM3-PRO / EM2-PRO / EM2-iFI, S-EM9 / Velvet / S-EM6, and the new ES2 / ES3. They also have two amplifiers – the AMP911 and AMP912.
     
    But perhaps the quote that gives you the best idea of what Earsonics is all about comes from their CEO (Franck Lopez) 
     
    In a field dictated by the data sheet and the race for pure performance, we ended up forgetting the essential - what drives you to start a desire to acquire the best, for the sole purpose of creating this emotion that overwhelms you and makes you forget everything else.
    Our headphones are developed in this direction, create EMOTION ...
     
    I can definitely relate to this thinking.
    Earsonics website
    Earsonics on Facebook
     
    DISCLAIMER
    I was provided with the Earsonics ES2 free of charge for the purposes of reviewing for Head-Fi. Earsonics does not expect the earphones back, so I acknowledge that they are freely given and I thank them for the opportunity. I am not otherwise affiliated with Earsonics in any way, nor do I make any financial gain from my contributions, and this is my honest opinion of the ES2.
     
    Some may note the similarity between my ES2 and ES3 reviews.  A lot of information on the company, the accessories and the build has been repeated – and it is because they are very similar/same.  I did go through my normal full review cycle though – as I always do.
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
    I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5, L3, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
    For the bulk of this review - I mainly used the ES2 straight from the headphone-out socket of my FiiO X3ii + E17K, and also used (at different times) my iPhone SE, and a variety of the other DAPs I have around me (including the FiiO X7, L&P L3 and HifiMan SuperMini). Although I tested them with an amplifier, I do not think they benefit from additional amplification (I use mine mainly for consistency when reviewing and also to extend battery life on the X3ii). In the time I have spent with the ES2, I have noticed no changes in the overall sonic presentation, but am aware that I am also becoming more used to the signature of the ES2 as I use them more often (brain burn-in).
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    The ES2 arrived in black box and lid with a silver sleeve. The outer sleeve simply has the ES2 logo,  the company name and a small “Made in France” text and logo on the front.  On the rear is a little technical info regarding the ES2 (and some of this might be slightly incorrect, as it refers to 3 drivers), and also the website address.  The packaging measures 120 x 170 x 40 mm.
     
    Removing the sleeve reveals a sturdy plain back box and lid – with the Earsonics (ES) logo on top.  Removing the lid exposes the ES2 nestled safely in a foam cut-out, the Earsonics carry pouch, and (inside the pouch) the accessory pack.
    ES201.jpg ES202.jpg ES203.jpg
    Outer retail cover - front
    Outer retail cover - rear
    Sleeve and inner box

     
    The accessories include:
    1. 2 pairs of Comply tips (small and large)
    2. 2 pairs of grey silicone dual flange tips
    3. 2 pairs of black silicone tips (one pair large single flange and one pair small dual flange)
    4. 1 cleaning brush and loop tool
    5. Information card (in French)
     
    ES204.jpg ES205.jpg ES206.jpg
    First look at the ES2
    The full package
    Tips and cleaning tool

     
    The pouch is a flat clamshell which seems to be made out of a double weave canvas type material with a more rigid inner layer sown between the two outer layers.  It has a zip around the three sides, measures approx 90 x 70 x 30mm, and is semi-rigid enough to provide protection while still being very pocketable.  I really like this case for use on-the-go.
     
    ES220.jpg ES221.jpg ES222.jpg
    The Earsonics carry case
    Easy fitting
    And very compact

     
    All in all a reasonable overall package which should tick most people's boxes.
     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From Earsonics)
     I've listed both the ES2 and ES3 specs as no doubt people will be looking for comparative information.
     
     
    ES2
    ES3
    Cost
    USD 299 ?
    (USD 399) Amazon
    Type
    Dual Balanced Armature IEM
    Triple Balanced Armature IEM
    Frequency Range
    10 Hz – 20 Khz
    10 Hz – 20 Khz
    Impedance
    26.5 ohm
    31.5 ohm
    Sensitivity
    119 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
    116 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
    Crossovers
    2 way passive
    3 way
    Cable
    130 cm copper core with twisted TPU sheath
    120 cm copper core with twisted TPU sheath
    Connectors
    Standard 2 pin
    Standard 2 pin
    Jack
    3.5mm gold plated, right angled
    3.5mm gold plated, right angled
    Weight
    17g with incl cable and Comply large tips
    19g with incl cable and Comply large tips
    IEM Shell
    Plastic 2 piece
    Plastic 2 piece


    FREQUENCY GRAPH
    The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.
     
    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.
     
    es2channel.png
     
    What I’m hearing from the ES2:
    1. Very natural sounding mid-bass with a slight hump, and pretty good extension (some natural roll-off into sub-bass).
    2. Relatively  flattish lower mid-range, maybe the slightest recession or distance in vocals, but it is minor, and adds to the impression of staging size
    3. Upper mid-range has an excellent (and very cohesive) rise in the presence area (2 kHz) and gives a very clear and clean vocal presence.
    4. There are minor peaks at 4 kHz and 7 kHz but they are lower/similar to the 2 kHz peak so the overall impression is one of smoothness – but they still bring out good detail and overall clarity.
    5. Overall it is an extremely well balanced monitor with just a hint of smoothness, but because the bass is so well balanced, they don't appear overly warm or dark.
     
    One thing to note is the almost perfect matching of left and right channels.  You really don't get much better than this – bravo Earsonics.
     
    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
    External
    The ES2 has an interesting twist on a traditional ergonomic type design. It consists of a two piece hard plastic shell which has an odd shaped seam, but joins naturally into a smooth half “D” shape through the use of two micro Phillips head screws. All corners are nicely smooth, and the ES2 fits my ears wonderfully with no sharp or protruding points. They measure approx 20mm in length at their widest point and 16mm tall, with a depth of about 12mm. The nozzle is approx 6mm in length, 4mm in width, is located at the upper front of each ear pieces and is nicely angled to fit naturally with your ear canals. The nozzles are lipless and designed to fit T100 Comply foams (which means the Shure Olives are also a good – albeit somewhat tight – fit).
     
    ES209.jpg ES210.jpg ES211.jpg
    From the front
    From the rear
    Sideways from the rear

     
    The external face is again smooth and nicely rounded. On the right hand earpiece are the letter ES and on the left is the number 2. At the top center (part of the outer face assembly) is the standard 2 pin connector socket. This is a standard flat socket – so there will be after-market cable options for those who prefer cable changes.
     
    ES212.jpg ES214.jpg ES213.jpg
    Closer look at the notch
    Smooth underside with angled nozzles
    Socket and 2 pin connector

     
    The most striking thing about the ES series is the notch in the outer face, directly opposite the nozzle, and it actually looks almost like a piece has been taken out – until you notice the smooth curves and realise it is intentional. I was puzzled why the would do it until I noticed how well they fit. The notch has been designed to fit your Tragus, and it works extremely well. Brilliant design, and one of the reasons why this universal is so comfortable to wear.
     
    ES207.jpg
    ES218.jpg ES219.jpg
    With tips on - internal view
    External view
    And side view

     
    There are otherwise no external markings or brands, and of course no vents because it is wholly a multi-BA configuration.
     
    The cable
    The cable is 1.2m in length and consists of a copper core and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) sheath. The use of TPU makes a lot of sense due to its high elasticity, high shear strength, and resistance to oil and grease. The connectors are clearly marked left (blue) and right (red) with dots on the connector housings. From the connectors is a 60mm formable ear guide which I have found really easy to use.                 
     
    The cable - nicely flexible
    Y split and cinch
    Right angled jack (smartphone case friendly)

     
    The y-split is plastic with excellent strain relief, and there is a clear plastic tube for a chin slider/cinch – which again works very well. The jack is right angled, 3.mm and gold plated – again with excellent strain relief and also smart-phone friendly.
     
    The cable itself is a twisted pair above the y-split and twisted triple below it. It is extremely supple, and while there are some microphonics, use of the cinch and cable management under clothing eliminates this to a negligible level.
     
    Internals
    For those who like to know about the internals, the ES2 employs 2 BA drivers (1 x low and 1 x high) and uses a 2-way crossover with impedance corrector. The BA's are proprietary Earsonics drivers.
     
    One other hidden feature of the ES2 is utilisation of shorter acoustic tubes, and also implementation of an internal diffractive acoustic chamber – which Earsonics says helps add to the overall cohesion between drivers, and also a more believable sound-stage.
     
    Overall I'm pretty happy with the build – it seems sturdy, light weight, and above all built for comfort.
     
    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well and shallow fitting IEMs can be problematic. The ES2 is a relatively shallow fitting IEM – but because it naturally fits Shure's Olive foam tips – I can get a perfect seal every time by using the large.
     
    ES216.jpg ES215.jpg ES217.jpg
    Stock silicone dual flange and included large Comply tips
    Trinity Kombi/Sony Isolation and Spinfits
    My favourite Shure Olives

     
    Earsonics does include their own silicone tips - which are quite rubbery – but also gave me an excellent seal, and were (surprisingly for me) very comfortable as well (dual flange). Because of the thinner width of the nozzles, and lack of any type of lip – many of my other tips simply would not stay on. However both Spinfits and also hybrid tips (Sony Isolation or Trinity Kombi) also worked well. For me though, the Shure Olives are very comfortable and get a great seal every time.
     
    Isolation with the ES2 will depend on the seal you achieve and type of tip (possibly also the insertion depth you can achieve). With the Shure Olives, isolation was really good, and I couldn't really hear the car while I was out and about with them. With music playing, isolation is great, and I'd have no problems using these in public transport.
     
    ES234.jpg
     
    In the photo above note how the notch from the ES2 perfectly fits with the ear's Tragus
     
    Comfort for me is excellent – the ES2s are another of those designs which simply disappear when worn. In fact these rate up there with the most comfortable IEMs I've tried. They sit well within my outer ear (inside the external ear cavity – between tragus and anti-tragus), and are extremely easy to sleep in.  I have woken up more than a few times after a full night's sleep with the ES2 still intact.
     
    So the ES2 has a great build, and is extremely comfortable to wear. How do they sound?
     
    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the Earsonics ES2. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X3ii + E17K as source, and Shure Olive tips.
     
    ES224.jpg ES226.jpg ES225.jpg
    Great with the X3ii and E17K
    Also brilliant with the X7
    But equally good with my iPhone SE

     
    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the E17K was around 14-15/60 (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
     
    Relativities
    1. Sub-bass – well extended and there is a little rumble present, but it is not over done at all. The low bass sounds very natural, and it takes a more traditional overall signature that the ES3 in that it is slightly rolled off  Bass takes a back-seat to the mid-range, and sub-bass is slightly rolled off compared to mid-bass.  The surprising thing though is the overall extension – the measurements show sub-bass at 20 Hz on equal footing with the mid-range.  This is indeed a beautiful tuning.
    2. Mid-bass – slightly elevated compared to sub-bass, and exhibits a gentle mid-bass bump, but also relatively evenly distributed. The result is a very natural sounding bass response – and indeed sounds more natural than the ES3 to me. There is no noticeable bleed into the mid-range. It is not an overly warm or rich bass – but rather a quick, and well textured mid-bass. Slightly elevated compared to lower mid-range, and almost perfectly balanced with the upper mid-range.
    3. Lower mid-range – just the tiniest bit recessed compared to both bass and upper mid-range, but sounds extremely well balanced throughout, and the last thing you would call the ES2 is U or V shaped. There is very good texture with deeper male vocals, and the clarity on the mid-range overall is stunning. I always use Pearl Jam as my go to for texture in the lower bass – and the ES2 delivers beautifully.
    4. Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, but it is an even rise from lower mid-range to the first peak at about 2 kHz, then a dip and smaller rise toward 4 kHz. The result is an incredibly clean and clear vocal range, with good presence to lend a sense of euphony to female vocals – but without over-doing it and making the entire signature too lean or dry. The upper mid-range on the ES2 is (like the ES3) one of the best qualities of this IEM.  The nice thing about the ES2 (IMO) is that the upper mid-range is perfectly balanced with the mid-bass, and this combined is what really resonates with me.  If anything the peak at 2 kHz could afford to be about 2 dB lower to be perfect, but that is really being picky.
    5. Lower treble – there is a small peak at around 7 kHz, but it is actually lower than the upper-mid peak, and once again virtually perfectly balanced with the mid-bass.  It hasn't even come close to triggering any signs of harshness or brittleness, and is significantly lower than the peak on the ES3. There is some roll-off immediately after this peak, and then another peak in the upper treble. Cymbals sit back a little more in the mix, but there is reasonable decay, and while there is plenty of detail – it is much smoother than the brighter and more etched ES3. There is the tiniest bit of truncation with the cymbal decay – but I haven't noticed it detract from my listening at all.
     
    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    1. Very good with micro detail, and able to resolve finer details well.  Smoother than the ES3, and detail (while still there) is perhaps softened a little, or is not as spotlit as the ES3.
    2. Cymbal hits and decay on cymbals have good presence, but (depending on the recording) sometimes the decay after the initial crash can be truncated slightly
    3. An very clean and clear monitor with good resolution portrayed reasonably naturally.
     
    Sound-stage, Imaging
    1. Really good directional queues, and just outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so good sense of  width and depth.  To me the sense of stage on the ES2 is actually better than on the ES3.
    2. Spherically presented stage – with great presentation of both width and depth
    3. Compelling sense of immersion both with applause section of “Dante's Prayer”, and also “Let it Rain”. I loved the presentation of both. Amanda Marshall was sublime with the ES2.
     
    Strengths
    1. Wonderful sense of overall balance with all parts of the frequency in almost perfect harmony.
    2. Extremely good with both male and female vocals
    3. Good with dynamic music – and able to show wonderful contrast between bass and upper mid-range (eg Cello and Violin). Cello sounded utterly believable with the ES2 – fantastic tuning.
    4. Brilliant with acoustic music and gives strings good sense of realism and tone when plucked, and nice edge to electric guitar when strummed. Again the sense of overall balance and naturalness is key to this.
    5. Wonderful with female vocals, lending a slight air of euphony and sweetness – without over doing it.
    6. Genre master for lovers of a balanced signature – I enjoyed it with every genre I tested – even with electronic and the little hip-hop and trip-hop I have.
    7. Because of the balance – you can listen to the ES2 with a little more volume (if that is your preference).  However for the low level listeners, there is enough upper mid-range and mid-bass for you to drop the volume without feeling you are missing anything.
     
    Weaknesses
    1. The only weakness I can really find is that the peak at 2 kHz can sometimes be a little sharp with the wrong recording.  With well recorded music though – absolutely no issue.
     
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
    ES223.jpg
    The ES2 is easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have, and I haven’t experienced any issues with the iPhone SE, or any of the FiiO DAPs. I'm at my usual 65-75dB listening level (with typical pop/rock songs) on the SE at a volume level of around 20%, or on the E17K around 14-15/60 on low gain. I did try amping with the E17K, but noticed no obvious signs of improvement. I also paired the ES2 with the IMS Hybrid Valve DAC/Amp combined with my iPhone as transport, and actually preferred the more linear E17K on this occasion. From my tests, the ES2 neither benefits from nor needs additional amplification.
     
    EQUALISATION
    Tonally there is virtually nothing I would be inclined to change with the ES2 – but I did want to play around slightly with the upper mid-range, and particularly with the small peak at 2 kHz. Using the E17K wasn't going to cut the mustard, as this needed more of a scalpel adjustment than a broad one.  So using the Equaliser app on my iPhone I dropped the 2 kHz peak around 3 dB so it more closely mimicked the ES3's curve, and this to me made the signature completely perfect.  This is simply a matter of preference though – but its nice to know that the ES2 responded so well.  While I was at it – I also tried lifting the sub-bass, and also the upper treble.  Those wouldn't be my preferences but both again made changes to the ES2 which some may find preferable.  The good news is that the ES2 is very responsive to EQ.  Its one of the reasons I like a reasonably well balanced earphone – they respond well to everything!
     
    COMPARISONS
    This time the comparison was easy to pick. As a reviewer you want to show something in the same price range, and also show something with similar capabilities.  Fortunately I have two ideal earphones (the Jays q-Jays, and Alclair Curve) which are both in a comparable price range, and also  dual BA earphones.  I also compared the ES2 and ES3 as a final match up.
     
    All of these comparisons are very subjective – and influenced by my own preference, physiology and bias. Comparison was once again with the X3ii + E17K, and the ES2 had the Shure Olive tips and no EQ was used. All IEMs were volume matched with a 1 kHz tone and using a proper SPL meter.
     
    ES2 (~$299) vs Alclair Curve (~ $249)
    es2vscurve.png ES227.jpg
    Frequency comparison
    Earsonics ES2 vs Alclair Curve

     
    Honours are reasonably even on build quality, accessories, and comfort.  Both are extremely light weight and despite the hard plastic housings, look built to last.  Overall comfort might go slightly toward the Curve – but it's just the unique shape – they fit like customs.  Neither is a slouch in the comfort stakes. Isolation is slightly better on the Curve but it is marginal.  Both cables are replaceable and actually look identical (same OEM supplier?).
     
    Sonically the two are more alike than different, with the Curve having a slightly more V shape (a little more bass) and definitely a more lower treble.  The transition from lower mids to upper mids does sound a little more natural on the Curve to me, but at the same time, the ES2 is a little smoother overall in the upper frequencies (more air and slightly more heat with the Curve).  Its really hard to pick a preferences with these two.  Both are excellent examples of how good a dual BA can be.  For overall tonality I think I slightly prefer the ES2 – but its close.
     
    ES2 (~$299) vs Jays q-Jays (~ $299)
    es2vsqjays.png ES228.jpg
    Frequency comparison
    Earsonics ES2 vs Jays q-Jays

     
    Build and accessories go to the diminutive q-Jays – with their aluminium alloy build, and excellent carry case. But for all that, the ES2 build and accessory package is also excellent. Comfort could go either way – the q-Jays are so tiny they just disappear – but the last few weeks have shown me that the ES2 is also one of the most comfortable I've tried. Isolation is similar – the q-Jays does allow you to go deeper with insertion though. Both cables are replaceable and good quality, but I do prefer the 2-pin system of the ES2 though.
     
    Sonically the two are again similar overall – but the q-Jays are actually noticeably more linear. Where the ES2 has the mid-range bumped, the q-Jays have a much flatter curve and more emphasis at the 7 kHz bump which both share in the lower treble. This is quite a hard one because I use the q-Jays a lot, so I am more used to their signature and its one I fell in love with the first time I heard them.  For me personally I still like the overall natural tonality of the q-Jays a little more.  But where some will find the Jays mid-range a little subdued ( I think its perfect – and balances the bass nicely), and the overall tonality thicker – the ES2 gives a little more clarity and forward mid-range.  I could really live with either and both have amazing strengths.  Going back and forth, I've had more of a chance to appreciate both over the last month.  They compliment each other nicely.
     
    ES2 (~$299) vs ES3 (~ $399)
    es2vses3.png ES229.jpg
    Frequency comparison
    Earsonics ES2 vs ES3

     
    As I alluded to in my ES3 review, this is the one I didn't expect. Before Max sent me both, I'd read a couple of impressions from different reviewers, and the consensus had been that the ES2 was a lot darker, warmer, and the ES3 was clearly superior. And even when both pairs arrived, I spent the first two weeks with the ES3, and didn't even open the ES2 until I had the ES3's signature pretty much dialled in. I wasn't expecting the reaction I had.
     
    But lets clear the other attributes first. In terms of overall package, they are identical – build, fit etc. Internally there are the obvious 2 vs 3 drivers, but they share the internal diffractive acoustic chamber.
     
    Sonically the ES2 has a traditional mid-bass hump (including reasonable sub-bass extension), but doesn't have the sub-bass bump, or the extension at 7 kHz (down by about 4-5 dB at this frequency). It does have slightly more presence at 2 kHz – so at first listen it definitely appears to have smaller overall staging, and of course it is warmer and doesn't have the apparent resolution/detail of its higher spec'd sibling. But when you really critically listen, you realise the resolution is all there – it's just not highlighted to the same extent. The ES2 is smoother, warmer, and definitely not as bright. But its also a lot more natural sounding while still delivering a great deal of detail. And while it may be less linear compared to the ES3 – I'd argue that the ES2 is more naturally balanced. I have a definite preference here. The ES3 is a great triple BA earphone – but I think the true star in this family is ultimately the ES2 (for my preferences anyway).

    EARSONICS ES2 - SUMMARY

    As you can probably guess, I'm pretty smitten with the Earsonics ES2. It has a very good build, wonderful fit/comfort, and excellent isolation. It also has a very good accessory package including a case which I personally find ideal for day to day use. The cable is really good also, and being standard two pin, is ideal for those who do use after-market cables.
     
    Sonically the ES2 has a more traditional signature – with a nicely crafted mid-bass bump which brings a natural bass texture and tonality which is exceptional with all genres I tested. Mid-range and treble are nicely balanced with the bass to give great clarity without being over etched of peaky.  Extension is very good.
     
    I've seen others describe the ES2 as a warmer, darker monitor, and I'm afraid I can't really agree.  To me the ES2 is quite natural with an upper mid-range which is a little forward.  There is some bass warmth there – but it is by no means dark.
     
    The ES2 is a fantastic IEM, and a genuine all-rounder.  It should definitely be on everyone's short list if you're shopping for a monitor at around the $300 mark, and value balance, clarity and a little mid-range emphasis.
     
    Overall – given the complete package, its an easy 4.5 star recommendation, but I'm going to give it the perfect 5 simply because IMO at this price point it really does shine.
     
    My thanks once again to Max for the chance to be able to review the ES2.
     
    ES231.jpg